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Monday, April 27, 2015

Catawba Indians Were Called Flatheads

By Susan F. Craft
Catawba Indian Village

        The Catawba, many of whom lived in North and South Carolina, dwelled in villages of circular, bark-covered houses, and dedicated temple structures were used for public gatherings and religious ceremonies. 
Catawba Indian woman

        Agriculture, for which men and women both shared responsibility, provided at least two crops each year and was heavily supplemented by hunting and fishing.
        The Iroquois called the Catawba "flatheads" because they, as well as many of the other Siouan-speaking tribes of the area, practiced forehead flattening of males infants.
      Besides the Iroquois, traditional Catawba enemies included the Cherokee, Shawnee, Delaware, and several members of the Great Lakes Algonquin allied with the French.
Catawba warriors had a fearsome reputation and an appearance to match: ponytail hairstyle with a distinctive war paint pattern of painting one eye in a black circle, the other in a white circle and the remainder of the face painted black. Seeing that fearsome look, coupled with the flattened foreheads, some of their enemies must have died from sheer fright. 
         The Catawba allied during the American Revolutionary War with the Patriot colonists against the British.

Samuel Harris, one of the characters in my novel, Laurel, is a Catawba Indian. Here’s how my character, Lilyan Xanthakos describes Samuel:

        She loved her husband’s best friend, who had fought at his side through so many battles that they often argued about who had saved whose life most often. A handsome man with a wide, square jaw and full lips, he wore moccasins, buckskin leggings, a breech cloth, and a drop-shoulder shirt. Over his shoulder he’d strapped a powder horn engraved with a carving of a black snake, identifying him as a Catawba, some of the fiercest and most feared warriors in the Carolinas.

Susan F. Craft is the author of The Chamomile, a Revolutionary War romantic suspense, which won the SIBA Okra Pick. The sequel, Laurel, is a post-Revolutionary War suspense, released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Jan. 17, 2015.


  1. Very interesting Susan.

  2. Thank you, Tina. I'm sharing some of my research for my next novel that I'm working on in which Catawba Indians will be featured. I'm enjoying learning about the different tribes.

  3. You gotta wonder who first decided to do the head-shaping thing. I mean, what momma looked at her baby and thought, "I think he'd look better with his head flattened." And today we take such care of our babies' delicate heads. Interesting stuff.

  4. I agree, Pegg, but then how did all fashions and body shaping occur--tattoos, nose rings, Chinese foot binding, ear lobe stretching, gold ring necklaces that stretch women's necks. Cultural things that all seem so peculiar, but it does make you wonder who thought about doing them the first time.

  5. Interesting, Susan. Flattening foreheads sounds like it would hurt!

  6. Hi, Carrie, from what I can determine, the babies were carried around on their mothers' backs, wrapped onto a sort of board. A piece of cloth was wrapped around the board and across the foreheads of the babies, so that the natural rounding of the skull was prohibited. This was done over a period of months. Sorry to hear you're not feeling well. I imagine it will take quite some time for you to recover from the surgery. Prayers and hugs coming your way, sweet friend.

  7. Hi Susan. I love reading things about the Indians. What I think would be torture would be to have to wear too small shoes so your feet would stay small like in Japan. Said it made them walk delicately.Lots os weird customs through the centuries.
    Thanks for the post. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

    1. Hi, Maxie, so happy you like the post. Yes, there have been lots of weird customs over time. Difficult to explain.


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